Congress Subpoenas Climate Scientists in Effort to Hamper ExxonMobil Fraud Investigation

ExxonMobil executives may have intentionally misled the public about climate change – for decades. And the House Science Committee just hampered legal efforts to learn more about ExxonMobil’s actions by subpoenaing the nonprofit scientists who sought to find out what the fossil fuel giant knew and when.

For 40 years, tobacco companies intentionally misled consumers to believe that smoking wasn’t harmful. Now it appears that many in the fossil fuel industry may have applied similarly deceptive tactics – and for just as long – to confuse the public about the dangers of climate change.

Investigative research by nonprofit groups like InsideClimate News and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have turned up evidence that ExxonMobil may have known about the hazards of fossil-fuel driven climate change back in the 1970s. However, rather than informing the public or taking steps to reduce such risks, documents indicate that ExxonMobil leadership chose to cover up their findings and instead convince the public that climate science couldn’t be trusted.

As a result of these findings, the Attorneys General (AGs) from New York and Massachusetts launched a legal investigation to determine if ExxonMobil committed fraud, including subpoenaing the company for more information. That’s when the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith stepped in.

Chairman Smith, under powerful new House rules, unilaterally subpoenaed not just the AGs, but also many of the nonprofits involved in the ExxonMobil investigation, including groups like the UCS. Smith and other House representatives argue that they’re merely supporting ExxonMobil’s rights to free speech and to form opinions based on scientific research.

However, no one is targeting ExxonMobil for expressing an opinion. The Attorneys General and the nonprofits are investigating what may have been intentional fraud.

In a public statement, Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists said:

“We do not accept Chairman Smith’s premise that fraud, if committed by ExxonMobil, is protected by the First Amendment. It’s beyond ironic for Chairman Smith to violate our actual free speech rights in the name of protecting ExxonMobil’s supposed right to misrepresent the work of its own scientists and deceive shareholders and the public. […]

“Smith is misusing the House Science Committee’s subpoena power in a way that should concern everyone across the political spectrum. Today, the target is UCS and others concerned about climate change. But if these kinds of subpoenas are allowed, who will be next and on what basis?”

In fact, Chairman Smith also subpoenaed climate scientists at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the fall of 2015 and again earlier this year. UCS representatives are referring to this as a blatant “abuse of power” on the part of the government and ExxonMobil.

Gretchen Goldman, a lead analyst for UCS, wrote: “Abuse of power is when a company exploits its vast political network to squash policies that would address climate change.”

The complete list of nonprofits subpoenaed by Chairman Smith includes:, the Climate Accountability Institute, the Climate Reality Project, Greenpeace, Pawa Law Group PC, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Editorial note:

At FLI, we strive to remain nonpartisan and apolitical. Our goal — to ensure a bright future for humanity — clearly spans the political spectrum. However, we cannot, in good conscience, stand back and simply witness this political attack on science in silence. To understand and mitigate climate change, we need scientific research. We need political leaders to let scientists do their jobs without intimidation.

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3 replies
  1. Robert Vincin
    Robert Vincin says:

    Science, across its’ wide scope before any release of a finding, publishing a paper, making a public-judgement or statement, demand’ irrevocable data assembly from qualified, verifiable sources be digested! Equally chairs /secretary of a science panel/assembly particularly seeking evidence that can alter Governments/ Nations and the baseline assets of the Planet future’ the chair/secretary needs exceptional Scientific comprehension of;
    (1) the specific issue’ history, problem, cause, effect and direct area of solution/goal.
    (2) Equally to seek serious understanding of the problem-cause a chair must have well founded scope of solution-direction (e g Climate Change has occurred many times on Earth before man, and repaired the damage, how?)
    Journalist’s, MP’s, MD’s, especially Lawyer’s need to know their subject “answer”, at least “well within the ball-park” before asking a question!
    In my many discussions over 8 years in PRC the with Maurice Strong (the founder of the UN), we agonized with the UNFCCC-IPCC body of scientific trained minds’ tabling a simple verifiable Nature/Science solution at UNFCCC COP3 to reverse, CO2, drought, desert, poverty, why was it not applied global! He would be distressed that the last 5 years with overwhelming evidence UNFCCC COP21 secretary “called 193 MP’s of Nations to return home to “think about stopping” temperature rising 2 degrees.
    Any partial science thinking mind would have long concluded that, where the global heat CO2 CH4 problem-cause-effect derives, the ambient has already increased 2degree.
    So where leaders and a collective of Nations have assembled best science and follow the verifiable guidelines/rules and applied the actual of UNFCCC-IPCCC set out in COP3 (and science updates) USA Government Congress and Senate should have lead! It is concerning especially when, with just a small degree of due diligence, lowering CO2 is actually profitable.
    Replicating Nature’s protocol PRC will lower 8bn tonnes CO2 pa by 2020 to UNFCCC rule. So on the eve of 22years of UN COP to be held in the middle of an anthropogenic desert, the Data Exchange Committees should understand at last verifiable evidence to reversing CO2 is less than 1-3cents cost to an apple at the supermarket! Well planned, understanding growing Soil Carbon delivers, food, fodder, forestry, can be at a profit income while reversing drought, deserts, poverty. The question must be asked why has the USA Senate/ Congress and indeed secretary of COP not explained this. Answer, Academia Bankers non- science chairing without a qualified Body at the top table!
    Recipients of subpoena’s have no case the answer, in fact, have the responsibility to ask, “based upon what qualification was the subpoena granted”?
    God Save USA and indeed the Central business Earth for current committee admin will not!

  2. Lutz Brz
    Lutz Brz says:

    Not just that. Important as it is. i noticed that something was wrong with petrol-diesel driven cars-trucks-buses in inner city Newtown where the pong of the pollutants was so obvious I could smell the exhaust and arrived at the obvious conclusion that this is not good. I dumped the car shortly after this. Never owned one again. Now of course we all know the damage this technological menace involves. Trouble is convincing those who cause the damage of their irresponsibility.

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